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Ripper Street Revived!

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Ripper Street, one of my favourite dramas, was unjustly axed last year – but it’s been announced that the BBC has struck a deal with Amazon to bring it back for Series 3, with stars Matthew Macfadyen (Spooks; The Three Musketeers), Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones; Soldier Soldier), Adam Rothenberg (Elementary; Alacatraz), and MyAnna Buring (Doctor Who; The Kill List).

Its axing, blamed on supposedly-low ratings but more likely that the show is costly to make, was met with outcry, particularly as Series 2 concluded on a game-changer. The scripts, it seems, have already been written, and Flynn has said that the upcoming run of eight episodes starts filming in May.

Amazon has saved the show with a co-production deal through its Prime Instant Video service (formerly LoveFilm). The online company is expected to air the episodes a few months before they arrive on the BBC.

I honestly think Ripper Street is one of the strongest dramas on TV; I highly advise everyone to seek out an episode from last year’s run, called Am I Not Monstrous?. Merrick’s monologue in last few scenes is just beautiful.

Created by Richard Warlow, you can read the script for Series 1, Episode 1, at the BBC Writer’s Room.

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Posted by on February 27, 2014 in Television

 

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Top 10 books I read in 2012

I read a lot of books, a lot of graphic novels, a lot of comics. It’s my craft; it’s what I love.

What I read, obviously, influences what I write (and vice versa), and so pinpointing the ten best books I read last year helps me focus on what I like in a story. It seems variety is the key! So, in no particular order…

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Cast of Sherlock

The massively-successful Sherlock TV series on BBC1, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, spurred me on to discover the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – and I’m so glad it did! A Study in Scarlet was a revelation, and I eagerly picked up The Sign of Four. I now have all the Sherlock books, and so I began 2012 by reading the third book in the series, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It’s the first of the short story compilations, and once again, Doyle’s wonderfully easy but genius style made it an absolute pleasure to spend time with Holmes and Watson. This year, I’ll endeavour to read the next three books, ready for Sherlock returning to screen.

Fahrenheit 451

I picked this up on a whim, but it started my love of Ray Bradbury’s writing. It’s such a cliche (a phrase which, ironically, has also become cliche!) but Fahrenheit 451 really spoke to me. The level of thought that had gone into the novel, the amount of love and passion, came through instantly. It’s a book about a world without books. It’s a terrifying thought, but you completely buy into it. It’s still as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1953, if not more so.

Crooked House

Gemma Arterton is set to star in the film adaptation of Crooked House

Gemma Arterton is set to star in the film adaptation of Crooked House

Agatha Christie, whom I’ve been a fan of for quite some time now, is brilliant. I love her work, and The Agatha Christie Book Collection is a perfect way to fuel my imagination and fascination. Crooked House is so ingenious, it blew me away. Nothing is quite how you expect. (Although my Mum figured out who the murderer is, I hadn’t got a clue!) It’s a surprisingly disturbing novel, and the end is really shocking. It’s the definition of a ‘whodunit.’

Fatherland

Fatherland

What if the Nazis had won?

Once the notion was planted in my head, I couldn’t escape from it. I needed to pick up this book by Robert Harris. It’s so simple – why hasn’t every novelist done it before?! Maybe because they couldn’t beat the quality of Fatherland. In its anniversary year, I couldn’t put this down – even if, with German insignia on the front, it made me look like a Nazi sympathiser!

The Girl on the Landing

I’d read Paul Torday’s previous novels (his first, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, being his most famous) but this altogether different. It’s more disturbing than those that preceded it, and leaves a lot to the imagination – but that just makes it more unsettling.

The lead character is a normal, boring bloke – until he sees the titular girl on the landing, who may or may not be real. Things soon spiral out of control and you soon can’t put the book down.
Though The Irresistible Inheritance of Wiberforce is my favourite of Torday’s books, The Girl on the Landing is up there with the best.

Mack The Life

Lee Mack is, by far, my favourite comedian, and his autobiography is hilarious. In fact, it’s the first autobiography I’ve ever read in its entirety; I’ve tried others, sure, but they’ve never gripped me as much as this one.

For all my thoughts on this revealing book, take a look at my review for The British Comedy Guide.

Casino Royale

Casino Royale

Spurred on by the exceptional Skyfall (and watching Daniel Craig’s previous outings as the famous MI6 agent), I was surprised at the debut of James Bond in Casino Royale. It was everything Bond encompasses, but it was also sensitive and heartfelt. The main action was over midway through the novel, but Casino Royale is about Bond falling in love: a brave step to start out an action/thriller series. Live and Let Die waits for me on the bookshelf.

The Ghost

I nabbed The Ghost, another book by Robert Harris, when it was on offer at Waterstones for just £2.99, and I’m massively glad I did!

The Ghost

Harris’ style is pacy and pleasing, intriguing but warm. The interaction between characters is just as important as the mystery behind the new PM, Adam Lang. It really got me into the conspiratorial mindset for my script, A Writer’s Retreat, and was a thoroughly entertaining novel.

The Illustrated Man

Ray Bradbury came up with the clever idea of bookending a collection of short stories with an intensely unsettling tale of the Illustrated Man, whose tattoos come alive and tell the chilling and thought-provoking tales.

It’s especially interesting to see Bradbury’s exploration and obsession with this idea as just last week, I finished reading Something Wicked This Way Comes. It’s also interesting to note how Bradbury’s writing style changes – and yet stays the same, or, at the very least, recognisably Bradbury. Perhaps this is because his fairytale-esque tinged with horror tone comes through in whatever he writes?

Doctor Who: The Silent Stars Go By

Ice Lord

The final novel I read in 2012 was this considerable narrative by Dan Abnett, which sees Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond, and Arthur Darvill’s Rory Williams come up against one of the Doctor’s most-notable enemies, the Ice Warriors.

It was a real pleasure to read, with great characterisation, a well-thought-out plot, a big twist or two, and a wonderfully creepy-yet-beautiful backdrop. While the ending wasn’t perfect, the novel, as a whole, is a gem – and a must-read for Doctor Who fans!

 
 

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Steven Moffat on writing for TV

Steven Moffat, showrunner of Doctor Who and Sherlock (the latter with Mark Gatiss), has discussed his career and television in general with The University Observer’s Emer Sugrue.

I make no secret that The Moff is my main inspiration for writing, especially screenwriting.

Even though he wasn’t the sole writer of Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (he was initially involved until he was offered the top job on Doctor Who), his influence is certainly felt throughout the brilliant film. It’s very simple to say things like, ‘get rid of exposition; make it more visual;’ it’s quite another to pull it off masterfully. But he’s an expert. Tintin is a must watch – because it comes from an ingenious creative team.

So interviews with Steven Moffat are a great help with getting your head around the TV industry, and in this particular one, he talks about some of the things that really concern me.

Firstly, I’m constantly worried about the state of children’s TV; CBBC has really dumbed down, and doesn’t feel as comfortable as it always was – with a few exceptions, naturally – while ITV has junked CITV completely! I think we forget how important kids are, and Moffat has previously written about how we shouldn’t alienate them, because clever storytelling should appeal to all ages. He elaborates on this:

“[Coupling’s] ‘The Man with Two Legs’ was a very funny show – my son would love it, I’m sure – but it’s just a bit too naughty. But with just a little bit more inventiveness and a little bit of cover phrasing you could make that show for a mainstream audience as opposed to a niche audience. What is the point of addressing a smaller section of the audience? And God knows kids love telly, so actually stopping them watching is stupid.”

A further point of interest is the difference between drama and comedy:

 “I don’t think there’s any excuse really unless you’re making people cry when you should be making them laugh. I wrote comedy before I officially wrote comedy because Press Gang was always funny. I honestly don’t change the approach very much at all; the difference is when you’re doing a sitcom, you’re actually thinking ‘they’ve got to be laughing on this page and this page and this page’.”

I recently workshopped a drama, and got quite a few laughs, just from the banter between a couple. It was a lovely surprise: the scene was low-key, but relatable. Comedy and drama shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, as Moffat says here:

“I think comedy sits better in a drama – the way its sits in life, really – but then successful comedies come often from dramatic elements. The line can be blurred because comedy is an artificial distinction unless you’re actually talking about a comedian: if you’re talking about narrative comedy then it is just story telling.”

Moffat, on the set of Couplings, with his wife, Sue Vertue.

A big worry when writing a script is length and timing. Steven, here, offers insight behind the length of Sherlock, compared to Doctor Who:

“I think the longer length in some ways is a blessing because, I mean, I think I spend most of my life trying to get Doctor Who episodes down to 45 minutes and that can be really, really tough. Whereas, you know, when I was doing [A Scandal in Belgravia] this year, it was deliberately set over a year so you got a big chunk of their lives. Things like the Christmas Day scene would never make it into a normal length episode because it’s just a bit of indulgence – no doubt could be called self-indulgent! But the 90 minutes allows you that degree of character, in effect. And character is very important in that show.”

When a show is shorter, it can occasionally lack depth; however, a great writer should be able to seep character into every line of dialogue. It’s tough, but you shouldn’t be a writer if you don’t love what you’re doing enough to put some serious man-hours into it.

Finally, a foray into Doctor Who territory, as he remembers first writing for Doctor Whoin 2004:

 “It felt impossible that we were actually doing it and could go to the set and see the police box. It hadn’t been on for 15 years, it was so incredibly exciting! And I remember sitting down for the first time and thinking ‘bloody hell, I’m actually writing Doctor Who.’ That never completely wears off to be honest; I’m always very excited about writing Doctor Who but it’s now harder for me to recapture the feeling of it being entirely a novelty.”

I’m using a clip from Doctor Who: The Lazarus Experiment in my script, and – even though it’s somebody else’s words – it was so, so incredibly exciting to write ‘THE DOCTOR.’ I hope I get to write it a vast amount of times!

Tone is always important, and Moffat shares his thoughts (and those of Gareth Roberts’) on the subject in Doctor Who:

“Gareth Roberts [The Shakespeare Code; The Lodger], one of my fellow writers on Doctor Who, had a theory that you write the Doctor Who you remember; he tended to remember the funny ones, so he writes funny Doctor Who and I remember just being terrified of it so I tend to write the scary Doctor Who. Neither memory is more accurate, it’s all kind of nonsense but I do like the fact – the sort of weird sense of transgression of it being slightly wrong to have a television show whose mission statement is to petrify kids. Try and pitch that and get it made today!”

And to end… we all know Amy and Rory leave the TARDIS later this year, and Steven has stated it ill be ‘heartbreaking.’ I’m 100% sure he’s right. But he has elaborated with this lovely sentiment:

“Heartbreaking doesn’t mean unhappy.”

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Unpublished work

 

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Drama of the Day: Lost Christmas

ADVENT DAY EIGHTEEN: To celebrate advent, I’ll be adding new content to this blog every day in the countdown to Christmas; reviews, opinion pieces, short stories… that sort of thing! So make sure you pop back in between shopping, packing presents and nursing a headache.

I first saw the book for this in WHSmiths a few weeks ago, and thought it looked fantastic. Unfortunately, insufficient funds mean I haven’t picked it up yet.

But today, its adaptation with Eddie Izzard, Larry Mills and Jason Flemyng hits BBCOne… and I’ll definitely be watching!

Here’s the official synopsis:

‘Goose’ is a 10 year old boy who, on Christmas Eve, not thinking about his actions, hides his father’s car keys in the hope that he won’t leave to attend an urgent emergency rescue. This is a decision Goose will always regret. As his mother gets her keys and drives his dad to work, Goose doesn’t realize that this is the last time he will see his parents as ten minutes later his mother and father are killed in a car crash.

Flash forward a year and its Christmas Eve once again, we see Goose is no longer the bright, energetic ten-year-old boy he once was, and is now a streetwise kid who is supporting his Nan through petty crime. Enter ‘Anthony’, a mysterious enigmatic man who appears, seemingly out of nowhere, on Manchester’s snowy streets. ‘Anthony’ seems to have no recollection of who he is, where he came from nor where he’s supposed to go but he seems to know things. Find things that are lost and make lives whole again.

Everything starts with a lost bangle. This is where ‘Anthony’ discovers his ability to see what has happened to a person prior to losing what they seek and how they’ve lost what they desire. He touches a person’s hand and sees in his mind their story leading up to the loss of what they are seeking. Despite being lost himself, he has the compulsion and ability to find the lost, uncovering truths that will eventually transform the life of ’Goose’ and those affected by his decision. But is ‘Anthony’s’ ability to heal real, or just an illusion?

Lost Christmas is a magical story about self sacrifice and destiny, brimming with emotion and humour; this beautifully modern fairytale has all the ingredients of a classic Christmas film.

Lost Christmas is on BBCOne at 5.30pm.

 
 

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